Free Vs. Paid SSL Certificates


SSL certificates are data files that are used to encrypt data that is shared between the servers and the clients (ie. Web browsers). Since security breaches have been happening too often these days, it has necessitated more people to think about the safety of the personal information they share online. Whether they are buying goods at an online store or creating an account on a website, people are wary these days, and with good reason.

If you run a website, you may have heard of free and paid SSL certificates. How do you decide the ideal certificate for your website?

Letís start with the definitions:

ē A Free SSL certificate is one that you acquire for free from a certificate authority. The main reason why they are availed for free is to allow all websites to access the HTTPS protocol. Free SSL certificates are either self-signed or signed by a Certificate Authority (CA).

ē A Paid SSL certificate is typically bought from either a CA or a reseller.

To compare the two, we shall focus on the following parameters:


As far as security goes, both provide the same level of encryption. However, choosing an SSL certificate is more complex than that. There are other factors that come into consideration.


When you approach a CA for a free SSL certificate, they will only verify your identity and thatís it. As for the level of validation, the SSL certificate will only have Domain Validation (DV).

However, with paid certificates, the CA must verify your business after they verify your identity. When they verify your business, they will provide you with an Organization validation certificate or an Extended validation certificate (OV or EV).

A DV is sufficient if you are running a small website or blog, but when you are running a business online, you need an OV or EV.

Client Attitudes

EV and OV certificates render the address bar green. People trust websites with green address bars more than those that arenít green. With free SSL, you wonít have a green address bar. Secure sites as per public perception (not necessarily driven by facts) are considered more credibility and, therefore, rank higher.

Given how they can affect your traffic, investing in an SSL certificate falls into your marketing strategy to some extent. If your concern is spending a lot of money on this, you can have the best of both worlds by buying an SSL certificate at a discount from or other resellers and CAs who wonít charge you a premium for it. You wonít spend a lot of money but you will walk away with credibility.

Renewal Period

Free certificates have to be renewed every 30-90 days whereas paid ones take 1-2 years.

Warranty and Customer Support

Free CAs does not have good customer care and their services do not have a warranty. That leaves you exposed if anything goes wrong either on your end or the CAís. By contrast, paid CAs provide excellent customer care and they offer you a warranty.

Both types of SSL certificates have their applications. For example, a Free SSL certificate is enough if you are running a small website or blog where you are just starting out and you donít see any financial sense in paying for it. On the other hand, a paid certificate is almost mandatory for E-Commerce websites or other kinds of organizations where visitors want to feel secure (and this includes personal blogs and websites when you grow big or intend to grow bigger).